how to declutter toys

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Inside: Sometimes it’s hard to find the best solution on how to declutter toys, and you can get discouraged during the process. Here is an easy strategy to help you get started and enjoy a cleaner house.

One evening, as we are getting ready for the bedtime routine, I entered our playroom and found a huge mess.

There were things all over the floor: toy cars, LEGO bricks, pretend food from our toy kitchen, wooden blocks, a few stuffed animals, puzzle pieces, and tons of craft supplies left on the table from a project my son didn’t even finish.

It wasn’t the first time our playroom looked like that, and I knew something needed to change!

As my son reluctantly started to clean up the room, I realized that the whole toy situation in our house only brings us frustration and overwhelm.

I didn’t want my son to play surrounded by clutter. I didn’t want us to waste a lot of time every day cleaning up toys just to have them back on the floor a few hours later. And I didn’t want the constant nagging about the toys scattered all over the house to cause unnecessary power struggles with my son.

So that evening, I grabbed a big empty storage box from my closet and put most of the toys on the floor in it. Then I took the box and a few bigger toys that didn’t fit in it, went into our laundry room and placed them on top of the washing machine.

My plan was to sort through the toys the next day and see how I can organize them better to avoid clutter.

But then, something unexpected happened.

The next day, my son started to play with the few toys left in his room and didn’t ask about the rest of them. The same thing happened the following day.

On the third day, as he was playing with his train track, he asked me about some toy wagons that were missing from his room. I took them out of the big box and gave them to him, and he returned happily to his play.

As I was standing there, watching him moving his toy train along the track, in a much emptier (and cleaner) playroom, I suddenly realized what I was missing before.

We didn’t need a better way to organize the toys or a faster way to clean the room. We needed fewer toys.

how to declutter toys

Without even realizing it, that evening when we removed most of the toys from the playroom was the beginning of a change that made a big difference in our life!

It’s been a few years since that day, and the decluttering had such an amazingly positive impact on our family!

We still have times when the kids get to have too many toys (especially after birthdays or holidays), so we declutter on a regular basis, and in time we learned a few tips that make this process easy and bring great results!

The benefits of decluttering and having fewer toys

As parents, we are tempted to believe that offering kids a lot of toys will keep them busy for a longer period of time and will allow us to have more well-deserved quiet time. But this is certainly not the case!

In fact, too many toys have the opposite effect on kids and make it harder for them to focus on their toys and play independently.

Here are some benefits of having fewer toys that convinced me to choose this simplified way of handling toys:

  • Toy clutter makes kids feel overwhelmed, and they “jump” from one toy to another without really engaging with any of them
  • Kids focus better when they have fewer toys and are more stimulated to use their creativity and imagination while playing.
  • Kids play independently more when they have a simple and organized environment. When kids are surrounded by a lot of toys, they become more easily distracted and get bored quicker, so they ask for the parent’s attention more often and engage less in independent play.
  • When kids have fewer toys, cleaning up is easier, and the whole house looks a lot cleaner!
  • It is scientifically proven that a simpler and more organized home has a great impact on mental health, so both you and your kids will feel the benefits of this change.
how to declutter toys

How to declutter toys the easy way

If your house is full of toys and you want to simplify the way you manage your kids’ toys, I gathered here a complete guide on how to declutter toys and enjoy a cleaner home and more independent play.

How to declutter toys: The first steps

The first step for organizing the toys is to go through all of them and decide what to do with every one of them.

This can feel overwhelming at first, but if you think about the benefits in the long run, it is definitely worth the effort!

Start by creating four boxes for sorting the toys into four categories: KEEP, DONATE, DISCARD, and SAVE.

The DONATE box will include the toys your kids don’t use anymore and can be donated to other kids.

(Make sure to donate the toys in your DONATE box as soon as you finish instead of storing them in your house, because this will allow you to see the progress of the decluttering and motivate you to move on to the next steps.)

The DISCARD box will include the toys that are broken or have missing parts and need to go to the trash.

The SAVE box will include toys your kids don’t use, but you still want to keep (either for them to use later on, as they grow up, or for younger siblings).

The KEEP box will include the toys your kids play with, and you want to keep at hand. This box will be organized in different categories in the next steps, but first, you need to finish going through all the toys and putting them in the right boxes.

(One important thing: Some toys are really close to our heart because they bring up lovely memories from when our kids were younger, so we tend to want to keep them, although they are not useful anymore. Instead of keeping them and adding to the clutter, take a few pictures of them to keep as memories, and give the toys to other kids who will enjoy them.)

how to declutter toys

photo credit: Africa Studio /

How to declutter toys: the next steps

After you finished sorting the toys in the four boxes, you will already be able to see some progress. The toys from the DONATE and DISCARD boxes will go away, and the ones from the SAVE box will be stored and will not bring additional mess in the house.

Now you can move on to the next steps and organize the toys from the KEEP box.

I read about two methods of handling this process, and I will tell you about both of them here.

I implemented one of them, and it worked wonderfully for me, but I have friends that use the other method and are very satisfied with it, so you can try the one that fits you better.

how to declutter toys

Option #1: The “Use or Store” Method

This is a very simple way of organizing the KEEP box.

First of all, you need to sort the items in the box by category: markers, craft supplies, coloring books, cars, dolls, etc. You may notice that your child has many items in particular categories, and these are the ones that need a better organization.

For example: if your kid has 50 markers, they probably don’t actively use all of them and could easily use only a part of them. You can choose 15 of them to remain at hand and the other 35 to be stored. In the same way, if your child has 40 cars, you can decide to leave only 12 of them at hand and store the others.

Practically, the “Use or store” method means going through each category and deciding how many items will remain in the child’s room and how many will be stored.

The kids will have fewer items at hand, so they will enjoy them more, and your house will be cleaner!

The items in storage will be used anytime you need them. If the markers in the child’s room don’t work anymore, you will be able to replace them. If your child gets bored with the cars in their room or some of them get broken, you will have new ones to give them and so on.

It is better to organize the toys into categories in the child’s room and in the storage space as well, so you can keep track of them easier.

The number of toys you leave at hand is up to you, but focusing on having just a few items in each category will help you fully enjoy the benefits of decluttering.

The fact that some toys will be stored is great also because your kids will be happy when you’ll offer them new items from the storage. It’s like offering them new toys without spending any money! 🙂

how to declutter toys

photo credit: Anna Grigorjeva /

Option #2: The “Toy rotation” method

This is the method I first used when my oldest son was a toddler, and it’s the one I use now as well.

I will give you more details about how we use the toy rotation in a separate article, but I will include here the basic rules you need to know if you want to apply this method.

The toy rotation means that you will have the toys split into several boxes, and the child will receive only one box at a time.

First, select your kids’ favorite toys (those few toys they play with all the time) and leave them available at all times, without including them in the toy rotation.

Then, you need to decide how often you want to rotate the toys in order to know how many boxes you will need.

Here are some types of toy rotation to choose from:

  • daily toy rotation: this means you will change the toys every day, so you will need 7 boxes, one for every day of the week (this type of toy rotation is good for stay-at-home moms with young kids because it’s really helpful to have new activities to do with the children every day)
  • weekly toy rotation: this means you will change the toys on a weekly basis, and the number of boxes will depend on how many toys you have (I suggest using at least 4 boxes)
  • monthly toy rotation: this means you will rotate the toys monthly, so normally 3 boxes should be enough (you can use more boxes if your child still has a lot of toys after decluttering)
  • random toy rotation: this means you will have several boxes (normally 3-5 boxes) that you will rotate whenever your kids get bored with the toys they already have, and you feel it’s time for a change.

You can choose whatever type of toy rotation you think it’s more appropriate for your kids. The only important thing is to stick with the plan of rotating the toys regularly.

After you decide what kind of toy rotation you will implement, it’s time to prepare the boxes and sort the toys.

First, you need to split the toys into categories: books, cars, dolls, puzzles, LEGOs, and so on. Then you need to go through each category and divide the item into different boxes.

For example, if your child has 20 cars and you decided to use 4 boxes for the toy rotation, you can put 5 cars in each box.

Then, you will handle the toys that don’t belong to a particular category and split them into boxes so that the boxes have a similar number of toys.

The last thing to do is to add labels to the boxes and store them.

You will only use one box at a time, so the kids will only play with those toys for a period of time.

There are many other things I could write about toy rotation because it was something that really changed the way we manage toys, but I will include all the details in a separate article (this one is already a very long one).

how to declutter toys

photo credit: Anna Grigorjeva /

How to declutter toys: Helpful tips

Sometimes it’s hard to find the best solution on how to declutter toys, and you can get discouraged during the process. The best motivation to keep going is focusing on all the benefits the decluttering will bring to both you and your kids.

It’s also important to learn to let go. For me, this was a very important lesson because I realized I was emotionally attached to some belongings, and that was preventing me from effectively decluttering our home.

When I learned to let things go, everything changed, and simplifying our life was one of the best things that happened to us.

Sometimes the kids also have a difficult time letting toys go, so you need to keep this in mind when deciding whatever to get your kids involved in the process or not, especially if you have young children.

I hope that these tips will help you as much as they helped us!

Simplifying the way you manage your kids’ toys can be challenging at the beginning, but it is one of the best changes you could make for you and your kids.

I feel that every day and I totally encourage you to try this as well and see how it works for your family!

How to declutter toys: This step-by-step guide will help you organize toys and keep the playroom clutter under control, so you can enjoy a cleaner house and more independent play.

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  1. We have been decluttering out entire home lately. My daughter has so many toys, and her birthday is coming up so we have been focusing on her room now. We have been explaining that donating is important because it helps other kids and she is really starting to enjoy helping me go through it all.

  2. This is so great!! I really need to take time to do this. I know it would be so beneficial to my kids but I have such a hard time with the emotional attachment. I have done better with bringing less into my house so its a start!

  3. some great ideas! My little boy kind of rotates his own toys if that makes sense? one day he will play cars all day and not be bothered with anything else and then another day he will be in his super hero costumes all day. But then once in awhile he has a day where every single thing gets pulled out and played with and I want to tear my hair out!!
    Lianne | Makes, Bakes and Decor

  4. I really need to work on this. I can be ruthless with my own stuff, but it is a lot harder to be ruthless with my kids’ stuff. I know there are definitely things that are just taking up space!

  5. Ardelia the Grandma says:

    Thank you !! Thank you!! Our next mission to follow the plan.